Answered by Shaykh Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari
I came across one of your answers regarding gambling and noticed a little section on paying to enter football tournaments and the permissibility of this. I wanted to get some clarity regarding the football event issue as we hold events locally. The annual football tournament is funded by local council sports development and sponsorship from local businesses. This usually covers us for sports pitch booking, trophy’s and equipment. Teams enter the tournament and the final winning and losing team would win trophies. Money from entrants is used to cover admin and volunteer costs then additional money left over and further money collected from a food stall is used to give to charity or a local mosque. By stating on advertising and registration that tournament entrance fees are used for admin and charity would this come out of the Realm of gambling or is there still an implication regarding those entering the tournament rather than those organising it. Any clarity on this would be greatly appreciated.
In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,
Gambling, as explained in many previous answers, is defined as “the ownership of wealth with a risk of loss (tamlik al-mal ala al-mukhatara).” (Ahkam al-Qur’an of Imam al-Jassas, 2/11) In other words, one of the forms of gambling is where payment is certain from one side, but uncertain from the other. The one paying for certain is actually staking his wealth, in that it may bring more wealth with it or be lost totally.
An example of this is where various teams enter a sports tournament with each team required to pay a fixed entrance-fee. Thereafter, the winning team is given a prize or trophy purchased through the money accumulated from each team’s contribution. This is also gambling, hence unlawful.
However, it is important to remember that in order for a transaction to be considered a transaction of gambling, it requires that the money which one puts at stake is paid without any return. As such, if one receives the full return for the money put at stake, it cannot be called gambling. It will not even be considered as placing one’s wealth at stake, since one has received its full return.
For example: An individual purchases a ticket to enter an exhibition, with the organisers of the event promising a prize for the holder of the lucky number on one of the tickets. This cannot be called clear and apparent gambling, because the ticket-holder has paid in order to enter the exhibition and has thus received the full return of his money. However, if his intention was not to enter the exhibition, but rather to win the prize, then he will be indulging in a kind of gambling, though not open gambling.
In light of the above, if teams entering the football tournament receive the full return for the money they pay as entrance-fees, then this would not constitute gambling. Thus, the money accumulated must not be used to purchase trophies and other prizes. It would be best to use this money for pitch booking and purchasing equipment for the use of the participating teams. It can also be used to cover admin and volunteer costs and for charity. It is important, however, that the entrance-fee charged from participants actually reflects such costs and that the participants are clearly informed that tournament entrance-fees are used for such purposes, so that their intention is not to win a prize, but rather, to pay for the facilities provided.
And Allah knows best
Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari